Alex Gordon is having a renaissance, right? He’s finally come into his own and is realizing his potential. So, what’s different this year? What indicators might lead to an improved Gordon and is it sustainable?
First let’s start with the result stats to be sure that there really is an improvement on the field.
|162 Game Avg.||162||664||585||80||147||37||3||18||65||145||.250||.332||.414|
There’s clearly some improvement so far in 2011. Gordon is sitting on career highs in batting average, 0n-base percentage and slugging percentage. We’ve been told numerous times that Kevin Seitzer has him working on a new swing, but what in the numbers sticks out as an area of improvement?
It seems as if Gordon is hitting about the same number of home runs and striking out a bit less. Neither of those numbers show much variation. However, he has shockingly been walking less but hitting a few more extra-base hits. If you compare this year to his best season of 2008, then there isn’t a whole lot different going on — he’s a few ticks higher in a couple areas, a few ticks lower in others. It seems that according to these numbers, he’s pretty much the same player he’s always been other than he’s putting more balls into play.
So, what about those balls in play? His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season is .345. His career average including 2011 is .302. The point to measuring BABIP is that it can give you an idea of how lucky a player has been. Once a ball has been put into play, the player has very little control over what happens. Better players tend to have higher BABIP, but an abnormally high one can be an indicator of luck. A player could be finding some gaps or having more bloop hits fall in. On the flip side, it’s possible that Alex Gordon has been extremely unlucky in his career.
I don’t want to downplay his new swing, or a change in approach. He does seem to have better at-bats and he seems more willing to foul a pitch off that was probably a ball but could be close enough to be called for a strike. It’s still too early to claim that Gordon has turned his entire career around. He got off to a very hot start, which has lingering effects on the fans and commentariat. If his BABIP slides back towards normalcy, we could see a return of the less-productive Alex Gordon.